Entrepreneur and technology guru Elon Musk has outlined audacious plans for a new form of transport that could revolutionise travel between large cities. The solar-powered ‘Hyperloop’ would transport passengers in pods through low-pressure elevated tubes at close to the speed of sound. Musk believes that this could cut down the 380-mile journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles to as little as half an hour, compared with two and a half hours by the planned high-speed rail link. He also claims that it could be built for only $6bn.
What the commentators said
There is nothing wrong with the science behind the scheme, said David Lee on BBC.co.uk. “The bright idea of transporting people using some kind of vacuum-like tube is neither new nor imaginative.” The rocket scientist Robert Goddard proposed a similar idea for transporting people from Boston to New York over one hundred years ago. However, experts have pointed out that the difficulty of designing accurate vacuum systems over such a distance, as well as buying the land rights, is likely to make such a system uneconomic.
Musk has said that he will not be able to take the project forward directly, due to his work at electric car firm Tesla and rocket developer SpaceX. “Without someone of Musk’s stature, and Musk’s force of will, the Hyperloop cannot happen,” argued Business Insider’s Jay Yarow. Yet even if the Hyperloop is unlikely to be built, it may still achieve a wider purpose for Musk by sparking debate about improving US investment in public transport, which is often both costly and ineffectual, suggested Kevin Roose in New York Magazine.
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